John McDonough on Nashville sweep: ‘We were steamrolled’

SHARE John McDonough on Nashville sweep: ‘We were steamrolled’

Blackhawks president John McDonough said that “change is inevitable” in the wake of the team’s early exit from the playoffs. (AP Photo)

Blackhawks president John McDonough wants to make one thing clear: The Hawks didn’t just lose their first-round -series against the Predators. They were beaten. Badly.

“We were steamrolled,” McDonough told the Sun-Times on Tuesday. “Give Nashville credit. We can sit back here and say we’re angry and we’re frustrated and it’s unacceptable. But they beat us. They blew us out. We got beat four straight. And we scored in two of 13 periods. This wasn’t a fluke.”

And that makes it even more difficult to swallow. So add McDonough to the list of Hawks officials who are fuming over the sweep, who are taking precious little solace in the second 50-win regular season in franchise history and who see it as a mandate for change throughout the organization. And with McDonough’s old team, the Cubs, seizing the championship spotlight and the citywide adoration that used to belong exclusively to the Hawks, there’s surely a sense of urgency to get back on top after back-to-back first-round exits.

“It’s certainly a wake-up call, for sure,” McDonough said of the sweep. “And I’m not a sentimentalist. I don’t get caught reminiscing about three Stanley Cups or parades or anything like that. It’s up to [general manager] Stan [Bowman] and his staff to figure this out on the hockey side.”

Bowman followed up the firing of Joel Quenneville’s friend, confidante and assistant coach Mike Kitchen on Monday by dismissing longtime Rockford IceHogs coach Ted Dent on Tuesday. Bowman still runs such moves by McDonough, but McDonough said Bowman has total autonomy to make those decisions, and McDonough fully supported them — and the man who made them.

Bowman was at the helm for all three Stanley Cups, and he had his fingerprints all over the 2013 and 2015 titles, successfully navigating the salary cap and retooling around former GM Dale Tallon’s core. But he has had more swings and misses than hits lately, with failed deadline acquisitions such as Andrew Ladd, Dale Weise, Tomas Fleischmann and Johnny Oduya yielding little results, some of them at very high costs.

But McDonough has no plan to reorganize the front office. There will not be a president of hockey operations, or any other new position, overseeing Bowman.

“I’m very happy with the job that Stan has done, but I’m looking for improvement,” McDonough said. “Improvement on the coaching side, improvement from my own perspective. I’m fortunate enough to work for the best owner in professional sports [Rocky Wirtz], and he has an obligation to assess my performance, and it hasn’t been good enough the last two years. I don’t think that anybody here at any given point is ever comfortable. But overall, if you’re asking me about the body of work of Stan Bowman and Joel Quenneville, I think they’ve both done extraordinarily well.”

But this clarion call for change from Bowman and McDonough will be difficult to turn into meaningful action. With so much cap space tied up in the core players and their eight most expensive players all owning no-movement clauses, there won’t be a massive overhaul. It’s going to be up to the younger players who flamed out in the playoffs to take the next step and the core players — who have logged heavy miles over the years — to stay at an elite level. And that won’t be easy.

The Hawks are still loaded with talent, still coming off a 50-win season and still sure to be a playoff team for years to come. But there’s a growing concern that those five deep playoff runs have expedited the aging process, which could -expedite the Hawks’ demise.

“I’m concerned 24 hours a day; I live in a world of concern,” McDonough said. “Not just about that. But I’m confident that there’s a lot of gas still left in the tank for those guys. This Nashville sweep, I just don’t think anyone could have envisioned this. But it gives us a chance to recalibrate. Change is inevitable, and we’re reviewing everything: drafting, developing, coaching, scouting, business operations. And we’re going to have more time to do all that — two more months than we ever anticipated.”

Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus.



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